The above image came up on my facebook stream recently – shared by a friend from a public page. I did an image search, and the image is very widespread – I don’t know who created it.

Clearly, this is a popular, much-loved, much-reflected-on image.

There will be various interpretations of the image:

  • religion is a subset of spirituality;
  • religion is restricting, spirituality is not;
  • you can swim out of your religion fish-bowl into the spirituality sea
  • you started within the constraints of religion, but now you are able to swim in the sea but you stay within the bowl
  • I have used a similar image, verbally, about growing up within a fishbowl, and now, tipped into the ocean, you continue to swim around as if you are in a 6 inch diameter fish bowl [I used that image in talking about cultures, not religion]
  • Maybe you can think of a positive interpretation of religion in this image – I think the picture presents religion less favourably than spirituality. What is your interpretation?

I regularly reflect on the “I’m spiritual but not religious” by describing religion as the scaffolding, and spirituality (or “relationship with God”, or whatever translates best for you) as the building. The purpose of the scaffolding (religion) is to build a good building (spirituality/relationship with God). Yes it’s possible to build a building without using scaffolding. But scaffolding helps. A lot. Good quality scaffolding leads to higher probability of a better building.

But. A lot of (most?) (“religious”) people focus on the scaffolding, not the building. They argue about the scaffolding. They split into different groups with different rules about the scaffolding… There’s the blue scaffolding group, and the yellow scaffolding group…

What do you think about all this?

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